Why Does Wedding Photography Cost So Much?
You’ve just gotten engaged, emotions are running on a high, and adrenaline is coursing through your veins. You’re ready to do this! To start planning your wedding (and your life afterwards) with your soulmate – the one you’ve chosen to spend forever with.
You reach out to a few vendors and come down to earth with a shattering crash.
This is expensive. And in just a few short months you’re going to have to pay a venue, caterer, photographer, videographer, buy the most expensive dress you’ll probably ever own, figure out what your groom is going to wear, plus any number of other things.
One of the questions I hear frequently is, “Why does wedding photography cost so much?” I know once you start wedding planning it may seem like every vendor is out to get your money and all we care about is padding out own pockets, but I wanted to take some time today and assure you this is not the case. Hopefully I’ll be able to clear up some myths surrounding wedding photography pricing and give a few tips and tricks for saving costs here and there.
This is probably the most “duh” statement out of anything else I’m going to be saying here, because obviously photographers need photography equipment. But here’s the thing – wedding photographer don’t just buy one camera and call it a day. Most of us have a MINIMUM of two-three camera bodies, easily ranging from $2k-5k each). Now, in case you didn’t know (because I didn’t before I became a photographer), camera bodies and camera lenses are typically sold separately. A camera lens can cost anywhere from $300-3,000 depending on the length of the lens (think wide frame versus closeup). Not to mention various things such as flashes, sd cards, external harddrives, tripods, etc. So when you see your wedding photographer pull up to the venue on the day of the wedding, you can bet there’s anywhere from $10k-30k worth of equipment alone.
Imagine your photographer sets up a tripod at your reception. During the wobble great Aunt Linda gets a little too wobbly, backs it up too close to the tripod, trips, injures herself, and whatever is on the tripod breaks.
I bet you’re hoping your photographer has insurance to cover the damages, right?
Professional photographers do carry liability and gear coverage insurance to protect our butts in case something goes wrong. Now, chances are nothing like that will ever happen at your wedding – but what if it does? Wouldn’t you rather have peace of mind knowing your photographer is covered in the event of an accident? Insurance is a monthly cost for photographers, with costs ranging due to location, amount of gear, coverage desired, etc.
DID YOU KNOW?! Wedding photographers don’t go home and go to bed directly after your wedding. Nope, they’re staying up til 2-3 in the morning ensuring your photos are safe, and that there are copies made to at least three different locations and harddrives.
Obviously costs incur for the sheer amount of harddrives most photographers own. But I’ll be honest, the time most of us spend backup and re-backing up harddrives to ensure your photos are safe is enormous. So on the night of your wedding, after shooting for anywhere from 8-12 hours, we go home and sit in front of a computer for another 2-4 hours.
Why? Because we care about you and your photos.
While there are many people who have majored in photography in college, the majority of professional photographers don’t have a degree specifically in photography (side note, if you’re wanting to become a career photographer major in business – not photography ;). While photography skills are mostly learned by hands on practice, there’s soooo much more that a photographer needs to know. For instance, business skills, accounting, marketing, social media, website design, etc.
And if you don’t know these things, you have to hire someone which also costs money.
There are TONS of resources out there for photographers who have to learn the backend of running a business, but those resources do (and should) cost money. So we have to factor in this education when determining our prices.
Did you know that self-employed people pay more out of pocket then most people who work for a corporation?
Here’s how this works: You get a job at Publix. Of course you have to pay taxes out of your paycheck, but your employer typically pays a portion of the total you owe, which means more in your pocket at the end of the day.
Self-employed photographers pay the full amount on their own.
Which admittedly sucks.
So a total of 30% of whatever you pay your photographer is immediately put aside to cover tax costs.
Of course there are people out there who don’t report their earnings to the IRS – but a true wedding pro will always factor in what it takes to run a legal business when pricing their work.
Professional photographers have to pay fees every year to ensure their business is legal. Sometimes this can be registering as an LLC or becoming a sole proprietor. Either way there are costs associated with maintaining a legal business. In addition to this many locations require permits in order to shoot on their premises. National parks, for example, will always require a permit to ensure the lands are protected and that no one abuses the privilege of photographing there.
Absolutely not! I’m always going to advocate for hiring a trusted pro when budget allows.
Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s great Tabitha, but I still can’t afford the $4k my dream photographer is asking to shoot my wedding,” Here are a few tips and tricks for saving money on your wedding day.
Personally, I don’t really know 150 people well enough to want them to attend my wedding. If you do, great! But I challenge you to really go through your guest list and ask yourself if each individual invited is really someone you couldn’t imagine saying “I Do,” without, or if you’re inviting them out of perceived obligation. It’s your wedding day, so you get to decide who is there with you.
Ok, this is admittedly a tough one because I LOVE hand drawn and lettered invitations as much as the next person. And if you have the money to invest in handcrafted, one of a kind invitations, go for it! But if you’re having to choose between invitations and a top-notch photographer, evaluate what will be done with the invites once they’re sent out. Most of the time they end up in the trash a few weeks after the wedding, no matter how much money was spent on them.
I always recommend Basic Invite as an alternative to purchasing super expensive stationery. Or you could do what my husband and I did! We used our engagement photos and designed our own invitations using vistaprint which saved a TON of money.
Ask her to be part of the cooking team for your wedding meal! Caterers are expensive, and while their services are definitely worth what they charge, it could help cut costs to ask a loved one to help feed your group of people on your wedding day. Covering the cost of food is much cheaper than hiring a full on team to prep your meal.
This is especially fun if you have cultural meals that are special to you. Can Nana roll some mean lumpia? Consider having that for your wedding meal!
One of my FAVORITE northeast US wedding traditions is the cookie table. Friends and family of the couple getting married prepare hundreds of cookies to be served at the reception as a gift to the bride and groom. If you attend a wedding from Pittsburgh to Cleveland you can bet there will be a cookie table present – and if you’re in Ohio you will definitely see some buckeyes there as well.
This is an awesome alternative to favors as well, as guests can create a little cookie box to take home with them at the end of night in lieu of spending hundreds of dollars on favors.
Y’all probably already know my thoughts about this, but eloping to a destination is an wonderful way to ensure your money is spent in the way you want. Imagine saying your vows on top of a mountain in Switzerland or by the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. You can be married AND have an amazing vacation, usually for less than the cost of having a traditional wedding.
And just because you go this route doesn’t mean friends and family can’t come see you say your vows – it just means you celebrate on your terms and avoid all the traditions that may not be important to you.
While I know it can be an initial shock, know the why behind the prices can help ease the burden a bit. So when your friends and family find themselves asking the same question, why does wedding photography cost so much, you can help them understand some of the reasons photographers charge what they do.